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Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería


http://revistas.uni.edu.ni/index.php/Nexo
http://dx.doi.org/10.5377/nexo.v29i2.4577
Vol. 29, No. 02, pp. 83-104/Mes Año

DESIGN OF A PACKED-BED ABSORPTION COLUMN CONSIDERING


FOUR PACKING TYPES AND APPLYING MATLAB

DISEÑO DE UNA COLUMNA DE ABSORCIÓN EMPACADA


CONSIDERANDO CUATRO TIPOS DE EMPAQUE Y APLICANDO
MATLAB
A. Pérez Sánchez1*; E. J. Pérez Sánchez2 y R. Segura Silva3
1
Universidad de Camagüey. Facultad de Ciencias Aplicadas a la Industria. Camagüey, Cuba
2
Empresa Industrial Ceballos. Departamento de Producción. Ciego de Ávila, Cuba
3 Centro de Ingeniería Genética y Biotecnología de Camagüey. Departamento de Documentación.
Camagüey, Cuba.
*
amauryps@nauta.cu

(recibido/received: 12-Julio-2016; aceptado/accepted: 12-Septiembre-2016)

ABSTRACT

In the present work, a packed bed absorption column is designed to recover certain amounts of ethanol
contained in a gaseous stream. Four packing types (50-mm metal Hiflow® rings, 50-mm ceramic Pall®
rings, 50-mm metal Top Pak® rings and 25-mm metal VSP® rings) are considered in order to select the
most appropriate one in terms of column dimensions, pressure drop and mass-transfer results. Several
design parameters were determined including column diameter (D), packing height (Z), overall mass-
transfer coefficient (Km) and gas pressure drop (P/Z), as well as the overall number of gas-phase
transfer units (NtOG), overall height of a gas-phase transfer unit (HtOG) and the effective surface area of
packing (ah). The most adequate packing to use for this absorption system constitutes the 25-mm metal
VSP® rings, since it provided the greatest values of Km (0.325 kmol/m3.s), and ah (169.57 m-1), as well
as the lowest values of both Z (0.6 m) and HtOG (0.145 m), meaning that it will supply the higher mass-
transfer conditions with the lowest column dimensions. The influence of both gas mixture (QG) and
solvent (mL) feed flowrates on D, Z, Km, P/Z, NtOG and HtOG was also evaluated for the four packing
considered. The design methodology was solved using computing software MATLAB® version
7.8.0.347 (R2009a) (Math Works, 2009), and also Microsoft Excel®.
Keywords: Packed absorber, design, packing, simulation, MATLAB.

RESUMEN

En el presente trabajo se diseña una columna de absorción empacada para recuperar ciertas cantidades
de etanol contenido en una corriente gaseosa. Se consideran 4 tipos de empaques (anillos Hiflow®
metálicos de 50 mm, anillos Pall® cerámicos de 50 mm, anillos Top Pak® metálicos de 50 mm, y
anillos VSP® metálicos de 25 mm) con el fin de seleccionar el más apropiado en términos de
dimensiones de la columna, caída de presión y resultados de transferencia de masa. Se determinaron
varios parámetros de diseño incluyendo diámetro de la columna (D), altura del empaque (Z),
coeficiente global de transferencia de masa (Km) y caída de presión gaseosa (P/Z), así como también el
número total de unidades de transferencia den fase gaseosa (NtOG), altura total de unidades de
transferencia en fase gaseosa (HtOG) y el área superficial efectiva del empaque (ah). El empaque más
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A. Pérez Sánchez et al

adecuado de usar en este sistema de absorción constituye los anillos VSP® metálicos de 25 mm, ya que
suministra los mayores valores de Km (0.325 kmol/m3.s), y ah (169.57 m-1), así como también los
menores valores de tanto Z (0.6 m) y HtOG (0.145 m), significando que suministrará las condiciones
más altas de transferencia de masa con las menores dimensiones dela columna. La influencia de los
caudales de alimentación de tanto la mezcla gaseosa (QG) y el solvente (mL) sobre D, Z, Km, P/Z, NtOG
y HtOG fue también evaluada para los cuatro tipos de empaques considerados. La metodología de
diseño fue resuelta empleando el software MATLAB® versión 7.8.0.347 (R2009a) (Math Works, 2009),
y también Microsoft Excel®.
Palabras claves: Absorbedor empacado, diseño, empaque, simulación, MATLAB.

NOMENCLATURE
a Mass-transfer surface area per unit volume m-1
ah Effective specific surface area of packing m-1
A Absorption factor Dimensionless
Ch Hydraulic factor Dimensionless
CL Mass-transfer factor Dimensionless
CP Hydraulic factor Dimensionless
CSflood CS coefficient at flooding conditions m/s
CV Mass-transfer factor Dimensionless
dP Effective particle diameter m
D Tower diameter m
DG Gas-phase diffusion coefficient m2/s
DL Liquid-phase diffusion coefficient m2/s
e/k Lennard-Jones parameter K
fflood Flooding factor %
Fp Packing factor ft-1
Fr Froude number Dimensionless
G Mass velocity kg/m2.s
GMy Gas molar velocity kmol/m2.s
GMx Liquid molar velocity kmol/m2.s
hL Liquid holdup Dimensionless
H Henry’s constant atm
HtOG Overall height of a gas-phase transfer unit m
kG Gas-phase convective mass-transfer coefficient kmol/m2.s
kL Liquid-phase convective mass-transfer coefficient m/s
Km Overall volumetric mass-transfer coefficient kmol/m3.s
Kv Volumetric mass-transfer coefficient kmol/m3.s
KW Wall factor Dimensionless
m Mass flowrate kg/h
M Molecular weight kg/kmol
n Factor Dimensionless
N Molar flowrate kmol/h
NtOG Overall number of gas-phase transfer units Dimensionless
ΔPlimit/Z Maximum pressure drop permitted Pa/m
ΔP0/Z Dry pressure drop Pa/m
ΔP/Z Overall pressure drop Pa/m
P Pressure atm
Q Volumetric flowrate m3/h
R Ideal gas constant m3.atm/kmol.K
%R Removal percent %
Re Reynolds number Dimensionless

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Sc Schmidt number Dimensionless


T Temperature ºC
T* Factor Dimensionless
v Velocity m/s
vflood Velocity at flooding conditions m/s
V Molar volume cm3/mol
X Flow parameter Dimensionless
x Mole fraction in liquid phase Fraction
y Mole fraction in gas phase Fraction
y* Mole fraction in gas phase in equilibrium with the liquid Fraction
Z Parking height m
Greek Symbols
 Density kg/m3
μ Viscosity Pa.s
σ Collision diameter Å
σAB Average collision diameter Å
ψ0 Dry-packing resistance coefficient Dimensionless
 Packing porosity or void fraction Dimensionless
ΩD Diffusion collision integral Dimensionless
 Distribution coefficient Dimensionless
Subscripts
(abs) Absorbed
CO2 Carbon dioxide
eth Ethanol
G Gas-phase / Gaseous
L Liquid-phase / Liquid
W Water
(1) Bottom of column
(2) Top of column

1. INTRODUCTION

Gas-liquid operations are used extensively in chemical and petrochemical industries for transferring
mass, heat and momentum between the phases. Among the most important gas-liquid systems
employed nowadays is absorption, defined as a mass transfer operation at which one or more soluble
components contained in a gas phase mixture are dissolved into a liquid solvent whose volatility is low
under process conditions. The absorption process could be classified as physical or chemical. The
physical absorption occurs when the target solute is dissolved into the solvent, while the chemical
absorption takes place when the target solute reacts with the solvent. The removal efficiency of any
physical absorption process will depend on the physical-chemical properties (density, viscosity,
diffusivity, etc.) and feed flowrates of the gaseous and liquid streams; the type of mass-transfer contact
surface (packing or plate); the operating temperature and pressure (commonly, lower temperatures will
favor gas absorption by the liquid solvent); gas-liquid ratio; contact time between phases; and the
solute concentration at the inlet gas stream. Gas-liquid absorption operations are usually accomplished
in equipment named absorbers.
Absorbers are used to a great extent in industrial complexes and plants to separate and purify gaseous
streams, to recover valuable products and chemicals, as well as for contamination control. The most
common absorber types employed in industry are plate columns, packed towers, Venturi cleaning
towers and spray chambers. Packed towers are widely used for gas-liquid absorption operations and,
to a limited extent, for distillations (Perry and Chilton, 2008). A typical packed column consists of a
vertical, cylindrical shell containing a support plate for the packing material, mist eliminators, as well

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as a liquid distributing device designed to provide effective irrigation to the packing (Benitez, 2009)
(Figure 1). The liquid is fed at the top of the column and trickles down through the packed bed,
exposing a large surface to contact the gaseous stream, which is supplied at the bottom of the tower
(Ludwig, 1997) (Richardson and Harker, 2002). The tower packing, or fill, should provide a large
interfacial surface between liquid and gas per unit volume of packed space, and also should have
desirable hydrodynamic/hydraulic characteristics (Benitez, 2009).
Packed-bed absorbers have been widely studied, analyzed and assessed in recent years either to design
or evaluate a unit for a given application (Benitez, 2009) (Brunazzi et al., 2002) (Coker, 1991)
(Kleine, 1998) (Leye and Froment, 1986) (McNutly and Chopey 1994) (Mohamadbigy et al., 2005)
(Siegler, 2003) (Strigle, 1987); to determine mass-transfer coefficients and determine pressure drop in
packed beds (Arwikar, 1981) (Bravo and Fair, 1982) (Fair and Bravo, 1987) (Lockett, 1998) (Shulman
and Margolis, 2004) (Wagner et al., 1997); for modeling and optimization of absorption operations
and equipment (Olutoye and Mohammed, 2006) (Rahbar and Kaghazchi, 2005); and is a frequent
topic usually covered in the most important chemical engineering handbooks and mass-transfer related
literature (Asano, 2006) (Ludwig, 1997) (Marcilla, 1999) (Pavlov et al., 1981) (Perry and Chilton,
2008) (Peters and Timmerhaus, 1991) (Billet and Schultes, 1995) (Richardson and Harker, 2002)
(Treybal, 1980) available nowadays.
The design approach of a packed-bed absorber usually involves the determination of geometrical
parameters such as tower diameter (D) and packing height (Z), as well as some other mass-transfer
and operational variables such as convective mass-transfer coefficients for gas and liquid streams; dry
and overall pressure drops; as well as overall mass-transfer coefficient. A well designed packed-bed
tower will provide the required mass-transfer contact between gas and liquid phases, with low pressure
drop, small capital and operating costs, and high removal efficiencies.
The use of simulation and modeling techniques to design, evaluate or optimize chemical processes,
equipment and unit operations, either from the economic or technical point of view, have reached
unprecedented levels in recent years (Boyadjiev, 2010) (Dimian and Bildea, 2008) (Finlayson, (2006).
Among the most developed and common computer applications used today is the MATLAB® software
(Math Works, 2009), since it provides numerical methods which permit to solve numerous
mathematical, statistical, financial, trigonometric, etc. functions by using special application fields
referred to as toolboxes (Karris, 2004) (Nakamura, 2002). MATLAB® software is considered a high-
level software package with many built-in functions, which is very easy to use, even for people
without prior programming experience, and that make the learning of numerical and mathematical
methods much easier and more interesting (Karris, 2004) (Yang et al., 2005).
Several authors have used MATLAB® software to carry out the simulation of chemical processes
operations and equipment, the evaluation of alternatives and base cases, as well as the optimization of
existing units or plants. For example, Mušič and Matko (Mušič and Matko, 1998) used Petri nets and
Sequential Function Charts (SFC) methods for modelling batch recipes on a combined
discrete/continuous support, applying a simulation environment based on MATLAB/Simulink® tolls.
Kukurugya and Terpák (Kukurugya and Terpák, 2006) developed different approaches using
MATLAB® simulation tools, for modelling of equipment installed in the raw materials processing area
both at coal and limestone mines, by means of balancing elementary processes running inside of the
plant and equipment. On the other hand, (González et al., 2007) proposed to incorporate the analysis
of the dynamic performance of processes into the design and engineering stage of projects, by the use
of base-software tools such as MATLAB/Simulink® package. These authors applied the simulation
method obtained in MATLAB® in a natural gas installation in a power plant, in order to study the
transients of a natural gas supply line to a steam-electric power plant. The results of the model were
validated with actual data on the boiler trip obtained from the distributed control system. Finally,
(Asbjörnsson, 2013) demonstrate that three different application areas of crushing/screening plants are
available for dynamic, steady-state simulation using MATLAB® tools: plant performance, optimization
and operator training, were each of these areas put different constraints on the modelling and
simulation of these types of plants.

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Figure 1. Typical layout of a packed-bed absorber


Source: (Benitez, 2009)

At the present work, a packed bed absorber is designed to recover certain amounts of ethanol
contained in a CO2-rich gaseous stream coming from fermentation operations. Four different packing
types (Pall®, Hiflow®, Top Pak® and VSP®) were evaluated in order to determine which packing
configuration provides the lowest column dimensions (tower diameter and packing height) as well as
the highest mass-transfer coefficient for this application, without exceeding the maximum allowable
pressure drop and also without affecting the requested removal efficiency. The influence of both liquid
solvent and gas mixture feed flowrates on 4 important process parameters (tower diameter, packing
height, gas pressure drop and overall mass-transfer coefficient) was assessed for the four packing,
while the effect of this two flowrates on two design parameters (overall number of gas-phase transfer
units; NtOG and overall height of a gas-phase transfer unit, HtOG) was also determined. The design
methodology was solved using computing software MATLAB® version 7.8.0.347 (R2009a) (Math
Works, 2009), and also Microsoft Excel® spreadsheet.

2. MATERIALS AND METHODS


2.1. Problem description

A gaseous mixture containing CO2 and ethanol, with a molar composition of 92 % CO2 and 8 % of the
alcohol, is evolved from a fermentation process. The ethanol must be recovered by means of a
countercurrent absorption process using water as the solvent (Figure 3). The gas mixture will enter the
tower at a rate of 4000 m3/h, at 25 ºC (298 K) and 1.1 atm, while the solvent (water) will be supplied
at a flowrate of 6500 kg/h and also at 298 K. The required recovery of ethanol will be 97.0 %, while
the maximum pressure drop permitted for the gas stream should not exceed 250 Pa/m of packed
height. It’s desired to design a suited packed-bed absorber working at 70% of flooding and operating
under isothermal conditions.
For this application, four packing types will be evaluated (Figure 2):
1. 50-mm metal Hiflow® rings
2. 50-mm ceramic Pall® rings
3. 50-mm metal Top Pak® rings, and
4. 25-mm metal VSP® rings.

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(a) (b) (c) (d)


Figure 2. Configuration of the different packing types used:
(a) Metal Hiflow® rings
(b) Ceramic Pall® rings
(c) Metal Top Pak® rings
(d) Metal VSP® rings
Source: (Ludwig, 1997)
According to (Ludwig, 1997), the four packing types considered have the following performance and
mass-transfer characteristics:
Table 1. Performance and mass-transfer characteristics of the different packing considered
Packing Mass Transfer Pressure Drop Capacity
Hiflow® High Low-Medium Medium-High
Pall® Medium Medium Medium
Top Pak® High Low High
VSP® High Medium High
Source: (Ludwig, 1997)

Table 2. Hydraulic and mass-transfer parameters of the four packing types selected
Packing type Hydraulic parameters Mass-transfer
parameters
a ε Ch CP Fp CL CV
50-mm Metal Hiflow® rings 92.0 0.977 0.876 0.421 52 1.168 0.408
50-mm Ceramic Pall® rings 121.0 0.783 1.335 0.662 142 1.227 0.415
50-mm Metal Top Pak® rings 75.0 0.98 0.881 0.604 46 1.326 0.389
25-mm Metal VSP® rings 205.0 0.97 1.369 0.782 105 1.376 0.405
Source: (Benitez, 2009)

Figure. 3. Schematic drawing of the packed-bed absorber


operating conditions

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Since the absorption system operates at low pressure and temperature (1.1 atm and 298 K,
respectively); the solute gas is very diluted in the liquid phase (that is, the liquid phase can be
catalogued as a dilute liquid solution), the system operates under isothermal conditions and there is no
reaction between the dissolved solute (ethanol) and the solvent (water), it’s assumed that the system
obeys the Henry’s law (Leye and Froment, 1986) (Matos and Hing, 1990) (Perry and Chilton, 2008)
(Richardson and Harker, 2002) (Treybal, 1980). According to (Perry and Chilton, 2008) (Rogers,
2007), the value of the Henry’s constant for an ethanol-water system operating at 25 ºC is H = 0.272
atm. Thus, the distribution coefficient () for the gas-liquid system (ethanol-water system) at 25 ºC
and 1.1 atm is  = H/P = 0.272/1.1 = 0.229.

2.2. Packing hydraulic and mass-transfer parameters

The most important hydraulic/mass transfer characteristics of the four packing types selected are
described in the Table 2 (Billet, 1989) (Perry and Chilton, 2008).

2.3. Inlet data

The inlet data necessary to carry out the design calculations are showed in Table 3:

Table 3. Inlet data of the absorption process


Parameter Value Units
Inlet gas mixture
Volumetric flowrate (QG) 4000 m3/h
Mole fraction of ethanol [yeth(1)] 0.08
Inlet solvent (water)
Mass flowrate [mL(2)] 6500 kg/h
Other data
Molecular weight of ethanol (Meth) 46.068 kg/kmol
Molecular weight of water (MW) 18 kg/kmol
Molecular weight of carbon dioxide (MCO2) 44.01 kg/kmol
Ethanol removal percent (%R) 97 %
Flooding factor (fflood) 70 %
Maximum pressure drop permitted (ΔP limit/Z) 200 Pa/m
Liquid density of solvent (water) at 25 ºC (ρL) 997.047 kg/m3
Liquid viscosity of solvent (water) at 25 ºC (μ L) 0.00089 Pa.s
Vapor viscosity of ethanol at 25 ºC (μeth) 0.000009 Pa.s
Vapor viscosity of carbon dioxide at 25 ºC (μ CO2) 0.000015 Pa.s
Molar volume of ethanol (Veth) 58.6 cm3/mol
Molar volume of carbon dioxide (VCO2) 34.0 cm3/mol
Collision diameter of ethanol (σeth) 4.530 Å
Collision diameter of carbon dioxide (σCO2) 3.941 Å
e/k parameter for ethanol (eeth/k) 362.600 K
e/k parameter for carbon dioxide (eCO2/k) 195.200 K
Ideal gas constant (R) 0.0821 m3.atm/kmol.K
Henry constant for ethanol-water system 25 ºC (H) 0.252 atm
Distribution coefficient (m) 0.229 –
System temperature (T) 25.0 ºC
System pressure (P) 1.1 atm

2.4. Design methodology

The equations and correlations used to design the packed-bed absorber were taken from different
sources (Billet, 1989) (Perry and Chilton, 2008) (Richardson and Harker, 2002), considering several
aspects such as process operating conditions, mass transfer characteristics, and packing type.

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2.4.1. Tower diameter

The molecular weight of the gas mixture (MG) was determined applying the equation (1):
M G  yeth1  M eth   yCO21  M CO2  (1)
where yCO2(1) = 1 – yeth(1).
The gas mixture density (ρG) at 25 ºC was determined using the Kay’s method (Perry and Chilton,
2008), while the viscosity of the gas mixture (μG) was calculated using the following correlation
(Pavlov, 1981):
 
 
G     0.001
MG
  yeth 1  M eth   yCO 21  M CO 2   (2)
      
   eth   CO2  
where μeth and μCO2 values are given in cP.
The amount of ethanol absorbed is;
Q  
meth ( abs )   G G   yeth 1  % R  M eth (3)
 MG 

The amount of solvent liquid exiting the column is:


mL 1  mL 2   meth ( abs ) (4)

The flow parameter (X), the pressure drop parameter under flooding conditions (Yflood) and the CS
coefficient at flooding conditions (CSflood) were determined according to the equations (5) (6) and (7),
respectively.
0.5
 
mL 1
X   G  (5)
QG   G   L 


ln Y flood   3.5021 1.028  ln X  0.11093 ln X 
2
 (6)

0.5
 Y flood 
CSflood  0.1 
(7)
 FP   L 

The gas velocity at flooding conditions (vGflood), the gas velocity (vG), and finally the tower diameter
(D), were calculated by using the following correlations:
CSflood
vGflood  0.5 (8)
 G 
 
  L  G 

vG  vGflood  f flood (9)

0.5
  QG  
 4   3600  
D   (10)
 vG   
 
2.4.2. Pressure drop

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Most packed-bed absorbers are designed to safely avoid flooding conditions and also to operate in the
preloading region, with a gas-pressure drop limit of 200 – 400 Pa/m of packed depth [4]. In this
approach, both the gas dry pressure drop (ΔP0/Z) and overall pressure drop (ΔP/Z) were determined
for the absorption process using well-accepted equations. The liquid holdup influence was also taken
into account, that is, when the packed bed is irrigated, the liquid holdup causes an increment of the
pressure drop (Benitez, 2009) (Perry and Chilton, 2008). Prior to the determination of both pressure
drops, it was necessary to determine several parameters first. Among those parameters are included the
effective particle diameter (dP) [equation (11)]; the wall factor (KW) [eq. (12)]; the gas-phase Reynolds
number (ReG) [eq. (13)]; the dry-packing resistance coefficient (ψ0) [eq. (14)]; liquid mass velocity
(GL) [eq. (15)]; the liquid velocity (vL) [eq.(16)]; the liquid-phase Reynolds number (ReL) [eq.(17)];
liquid-phase Froude number (FrL) [eq.(18)]; the ratio ah/a [eq. (19)]; the effective specific surface
area of packing (ah) [eq. (20)]; and, finally, the liquid holdup (hL) [eq. (21)].
1  
dP  6    (11)
 a 

1
KW  (12)
2  1  dP
1  
3 1   D

vG  d P   G  K W
Re G 
1     G (13)

 64 1.8 
 0  CP    
0.08  (14)
 Re G Re G 

m 
4   L 1 
GL  
3600  (15)
  D2

GL
vL 
L (16)

vL   L
Re L  (17)
a  L

vL2  a
FrL  (18)
g

ah
 Ch  Re 0L.5  FrL0.1 for ReL < 5
a (19)
ah
 0.85  Ch  Re 0L.25  FrL0.1 for ReL ≥ 5
a

ah
ah  a (20)
a

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1/ 3
 Fr 
2/3
a 
hL  12  L   h  (21)
 Re L  a
The gas dry pressure drop per meter of packing height (ΔP0/Z) was determined according to the
following correlation:
P0 a   v2 1
0  3  G G  (22)
Z  2 KW

Then, the gas overall pressure drop per meter of packing height (ΔP/Z) can be finally calculated:
P P0     Re 
1 .5

    exp L  (23)


Z Z    h L   200 

2.4.3. Diffusion coefficients

Gas-phase diffusion coefficient: The theory describing diffusion processes in binary gas mixtures at
low to moderate pressures has been studied extensively in recent years, and is well developed
nowadays. Since the absorption process is a binary gas system taking place at low-pressure, the gas-
phase diffusion coefficient can be estimated using the Wilke and Lee correlation (Benitez, 2009):
  0.98 
3.03   1/ 2   10   T
3 3/ 2
(24)
  AB 
M
DG   0.0001
P  M 1AB/ 2   AB
2
 D
where:
1
 1 1 
M AB  2   (25)
 M eth M CO2 

σAB – Collision diameter


 eth   CO 2 (26)
  
2

ΩD – Diffusion collision integral


1.06036 0.19300 1.03587 1.76474
D    
T *0.15610 exp0.47635 T * exp1.52996 T * exp3.89411 T * (27)

T
T*  (28)
eeth eCO2

k k

Liquid-phase diffusion coefficient: Compared with the kinetic theory behind the gases behavior, which
is well developed and available today, the theoretical basis of the internal structure of liquids and their
transport characteristics are still insufficient to permit a rigorous treatment (Benitez, 2009) (Billet,
1989). Usually, liquid diffusion coefficients are several orders of magnitude smaller than gas
diffusivities, and depend mostly on concentration profiles due to changes in viscosity, as well as some
changes in the degree of ideality of the solution. To determine the liquid-phase diffusion coefficient in
binary systems for solutes transport to aqueous solutions, the Hayduk and Minhas correlation was used
(Benitez, 2009):

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1.25  108 Veth


0.19
 0.292 T 1.52  Wn
DL  (29)
10000
where:
Veth – Molar volume of ethanol [see Table (2)] [cm3/mol]

μW – Viscosity of water at temperature T [cP]

9.58 (30)
n  1.12
Veth
2.4.4. Mass transfer coefficients

To determine the mass transfer coefficients for both phases, two correlations were used which were
obtained from an extensive study made by Billet and Schultes (Billet, 1989), that involved
measurement and correlation of mass-transfer coefficients for 31 different binary and ternary systems,
equipped with 67 different types and sizes of packings, in columns of diameter ranging from 6 cm to
1.4 m.
Gas-phase convective mass-transfer coefficient (kG):
3/ 4
 D  P   a   Re G 

kG  0.1304  CV   G   0.5     ScG2 / 3
 R  T      hL    KW  (31)

where:
CV – Mass transfer factor [see Table (1)]

R – Ideal gas constant


= 0.0821 m3.atm/kmol.K

ε – Packing porosity or void fraction [see


Table (1)]

G
ScG – Schmidt number for gas phase 
 G  DG (32)

Liquid-phase convective mass-transfer coefficient (kL):


0.5
 D  a  vL 
k L  0.757  C L   L  (33)
   hL 
where:
CL – Mass transfer factor [see Table (1)]

a – Mass transfer surface area per unit volume [see Table (1)] [m2/m3]

2.4.5. Packing Height

In those systems handling dilute solutions and when Henry’s law applies, is very usual and convenient
to work with overall mass-transfer coefficients in order to calculate the packing height (Z), which can
be determined by the following expression:
Z  H tOG  N tOG (34)
where:
HtOG – Overall height of a gas-phase transfer unit (HTU) [m]

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NtOG – Overall number of gas-phase transfer units (NTU)

Prior to determine the values of HTU and NTU, it will be necessary to calculate several parameters
first, which are the inlet gas molar velocity [GMy(1)] [equation (38)]; the outlet gas molar velocity
[GMy(2)] [eq. (39)]; the average molar gas velocity (GMy) [eq. (40)]; the inlet liquid molar velocity
[GMx(2)] [eq. (41)]; the outlet liquid molar velocity [GMx(1)] [eq. (42)]; the absorption factor at the
bottom [A(1)] and top [A(2)] of the column [eqs. (43) and (44)]; the geometric average of the absorption
factor (A) [eq. (45)]; the ethanol molar composition of outlet gas [yeth(2)] [eq. (46)]; the volumetric gas-
phase (KvG) and liquid-phase (KvL) mass-transfer coefficients [eqs. (47) and (48), respectively]; the
overall volumetric mass-transfer coefficient (Km) [eq. (49)]; the overall height of a gas-phase transfer
unit (HtOG) [eq. (50)]; the overall number of gas-phase transfer units (NtOG) [eq. (51); and finally the
packing height (Z) [eq. (37)].
4  NG
GMy (1)  (35)
3600   D 2
where:
NG – Gas molar flowrate
Q  
N G   G G 
 MG 

4  N G  N eth ( abs ) 
GMy ( 2)  (36)
3600   D 2
where:
Neth(abs) – Molar flow of ethanol absorbed
Q  
N eth ( abs )   G G   y eth 1  % R
 MG 

GMy (1)  GMy ( 2)


GMy  (37)
2

4  N L ( 2)
GMx ( 2 )  (38)
3600   D 2
where:
NL(2) – Inlet liquid molar flowrate [kmol/h]
 mL ( 2 ) 
N L ( 2 )   
 MW 
4  N L ( 2)  N eth ( abs ) 
GMx (1)  (39)
3600   D 2

GMx (1)
A(1)  (40)
GMy (1)  

GMx ( 2 )
A( 2 )  (41)
GMy ( 2 )  
where:

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 – Distribution coefficient = 0.229

A(1)  A( 2)
A (42)
2

yeth( 2)  100  %R  yeth(1) (43)

K vG  kG  ah
(44)

K vL  k L  ah  c (45)

where:
L
c
MW

1
Km 
1  (46)

K vG K vL

GMy
H tOG  (47)
Km

 yeth (1)    xeth ( 2)   1  1 


 
ln  1     
 eth ( 2)
y    x   A  A 
N tOG   
eth ( 2 )
(48)
1
1
A
2.4.6. Operating and equilibrium lines

The operating line will be elaborated using the following data:


 Mole fraction of ethanol in inlet gas mixture [yeth(1)] = 0.08
 Mole fraction of ethanol in outlet gas mixture [yeth(2)] = 0.0024
 Mole fraction of ethanol in inlet liquid [xeth(2)] = 0.
 Mole fraction of ethanol in outlet liquid

x   NN 
eth (1)
eth abs 

N eth abs 
N L 2   N eth abs 
 0.038
L 1
While to elaborate the equilibrium line, the following expression will be used:
y*    x (49)

3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The main physical parameters calculated for the gas mixture (that is, molecular weight, density and
viscosity) are showed in Table 4, while the calculated tower diameter (D) and overall gas pressure
drop (ΔP/Z) values for each packing type, among other important design variables, are showed in
Table 5.

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Table 6 shows the calculated values of the diffusion and convective mass-transfer coefficients for both
fluids (gas and liquid), whereas the values obtained of packing height (Z) and other significant flow
and mass-transfer parameters are listed in Table 7, all of them for the four packing types selected.
Finally, Table 8 presents a summary of the most important geometrical and mass-transfer parameters
calculated for the four packing types.
Figure 4 shows a graphical comparison between Z and D for each packing type; while the values
obtained of gas pressure drop and overall mass-transfer coefficient for each packing are given in
Figure 5 and Figure 6, respectively.
The resulting values of tower diameter; gas pressure drop; overall mass-transfer coefficient and
packing height for each packing as a function of gas mixture feed flowrate (QG) and liquid solvent feed
flowrate (mL) are reported in Figure 7 and Figure 8, respectively. The behavior of the variables NtOG
and HtOG with respect to QG and mL are showed in Figure 9 and Figure 10, respectively. Finally, both
the operating and equilibrium lines are illustrated in Figure 11.

Table 4. Calculated physical parameters


Parameter Units Equation No. Value
Gas mixture molecular weight [MG] kg/kmol (1) 44.17
Gas mixture density [ρG] kg/m3 2.006
Gas mixture viscosity [μG] Pa.s (2) 0.0000142

Table 5. Tower diameter and pressure drop results for each packing type
Parameter / Packing Units Eq. Hiflow® Pall® Top Pak® VSP®
meth(abs) kg/h (3) 649.35 649.35 649.35 649.35
mL(1) kg/h (4) 7149.35 7149.35 7149.35 7149.35
X – (5) 0.0400 0.0400 0.0400 0.0400
Yflood (6) 0.261 0.261 0.261 0.261
CSflood (7) 0.101 0.061 0.107 0.071
vGF m/s (8) 2.243 1.357 2.385 1.578
vG m/s (9) 1.570 0.950 1.669 1.105
D m (10) 0.949 1.221 0.921 1.132
dP m (11) 0.0015 0.0108 0.0016 0.0006
KW (12) 0.956 0.974 0.945 0.983
ReG (13) 13822.75 6475.80 17821.18 4466.63
ψ0 (14) 0.355 0.597 0.499 0.730
GL kg/m2.s (15) 2.806 1.698 2.984 1.975
vL m/s (16) 0.0028 0.0017 0.0030 0.0020
ReL (17) 34.27 15.77 44.70 10.77
FrL (18) 0.000074 0.000036 0.000068 0.00082
Ratio ah/a (19) 0.696 0.812 0.742 0.823
ah m-1 (20) 64.05 98.29 55.66 169.57
hL (21) 0.0233 0.0262 0.0216 0.0396
ΔP0/Z Pa/m (22) 91 140 118 199
ΔP/Z Pa/m (23) 112 159 152 223

Table 6. Diffusion and mass-transfer coefficients for each packing type


Parameter / Units Eq. Hiflow® Pall® Top Pak® VSP®
Packing
MAB (25) 45.02 45.02 45.02 45.02
σAB Å (26) 4.236 4.236 4.236 4.236
ΩD (27) 1.364 1.364 1.364 1.364
T* (28) 1.120 1.120 1.120 1.120
DG cm2/s (24) 0.0821 0.0821 0.0821 0.0821
DL cm2/s (29) 0.0000136 0.0000136 0.0000136 0.0000136
kG kmol/m2.s (31) 0.00221 0.002061 0.00209 0.002056
ScG (32) 0.862 0.862 0.862 0.862
kL m/s (33) 0.000110 0.000109 0.000121 0.000125

Table 7. Packing height determination for each packing type

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Parameter / Units Eq. No. Hiflow® Pall® Top Pak® VSP®


Packing
GMy(1) kmol/m2.s (35) 0.071 0.043 0.076 0.050
GMy(2) kmol/m2.s (36) 0.066 0.040 0.070 0.046
GMy kmol/m2.s (37) 0.069 0.041 0.073 0.048
GMx(2) kmol/m2.s (38) 0.142 0.086 0.151 0.100
GMx(1) kmol/m2.s (39) 0.147 0.089 0.157 0.104
A1 (40) 9.017 9.017 9.017 9.017
A2 (41) 9.408 9.408 9.408 9.408
A (42) 9.212 9.212 9.212 9.212
yeth(2) (43) 0.0024 0.0024 0.0024 0.0024
KvG kmol/m3.s (44) 0.142 0.203 0.116 0.349
KvL kmol/m3.s (45) 0.391 0.592 0.372 1.172
Km kmol/m3.s (46) 0.131 0.188 0.109 0.326
HtOG m (47) 0.524 0.221 0.671 0.148
NtOG (48) 3.809 3.809 3.809 3.809
Z m (34) 2.0 0.8 2.6 0.6

Table 8. Summary of the most important packed column design parameters for the four packing considered
Parameter Hiflow® Pall® Top Pak® VSP®
D [m] 0.949 1.221 0.921 1.132
Z [m] 2.00 0.80 2.60 0.60
P/Z [Pa/m] 112 159 152 223
KvG [kmol/m3.s] 0.142 0.203 0.116 0.349
KvL [kmol/m3.s] 0.391 0.592 0.372 1.172
Km [kmol/m3.s] 0.131 0.188 0.109 0.326
HtOG [m] 0.524 0.221 0.671 0.148
ah [m-1] 64.05 98.29 55.66 169.57

Figure 4. Comparison between Tower Diameter and Figure 5. Overall gas pressure drop values
Packing Height as a function of packing determined for each packing

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Figure 6. Overall Mass-Transfer Coefficients calculated Figure 7. Effective surface area determined for each
for each packing packing

Figure 8. Calculated Tower Diameter; Gas Pressure-Drop; Overall Mass-Transfer Coefficients and Packing
Height values for the different packing types as a function of Gas Mixture Feed Flowrate.

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Figure 9. Calculated Tower Diameter; Gas Pressure-Drop; Overall Mass-Transfer Coefficients and Packing
Height values for the different packing types as a function of Solvent (Water) Feed Flowrate.

Figure 10. Calculated HtOG and NtOG values for each packing type as a function of Gas Mixture Feed
Flowrate.

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Figure 11. Calculated HtOG and NtOG values for each packing type as a function of Liquid Solvent (Water) Feed
Flowrate.

Figure 12. Operating and equilibrium lines for the absorption system

Figure 4 shows that the maximum result of packing height (Z) is obtained if Top Pak® rings are employed
(2.60 m), whereas the lowest value of Z corresponded to VSP® rings (0.90 m). Regarding tower diameter
(D), Top Pak® rings supplied the lowest value of D (0.921 m), while the Pall® rings had the highest value
of D, with 1.221 m. According to the correlations used during this work, the value to obtain of D is

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directly related with the packing factor (Fp) value of each packing type, that is, if Fp increases so will
increase the value of D.
As for the calculated values of gas pressure drop (P/Z) (Figure 5), the VSP® rings exhibited the highest
value of this parameter (223 Pa/m), while the lowest value of this parameter corresponded to Hiflow®
rings, with 112 Pa/m. This variable depends on several factors, being the most important to consider
(without taking into account the influence of the physical-chemical parameters of the fluids being
handled) the gas mixture (QG) and solvent (mL) feed flowrates, mass-transfer surface area per unit volume
of packing (a); packing porosity (), Fp and D. In general, P/Z will increase if a, mL and D decreases and
if , QG or Fp increases.
Finally, VSP® rings supplied the greater value of the overall volumetric mass-transfer coefficient (Km)
(Figure 6) corresponding to 0.326 kmol/m3s, while the lowest value of this parameter belonged to Top
Pak® rings (0.068 kmol/m3s). The most influential variables on Km are the hydraulic factor Ch and the
mass-transfer factor CV; as well as QG, mL, Fp, a, D and . In that case, the value of Km will increase with
an increment of Ch, CV and a, as well as with a reduction of Fp, D and . On the other hand, an increment
of QG and a reduction of mL will decrease the value of Km for the four packing types evaluated, according
to the results showed in Figure 8 and Figure 9.
Regarding to the results showed in Figure 8, an increment of the QG (maintaining constant the value of mL)
will increase the value of D, P/Z and Z, while Km will decreases. On the other hand, an increment of the
mL (keeping constant the value of QG) will increase the values of D and Km, while both P/Z and Z
decrease for the four packing types.
As for the results displayed in Figure 10, an increment of QG will increase both the overall height of a gas-
phase transfer unit (HtOG) and the overall number of gas-phase transfer units (NtOG) for all the four
packing types evaluated. In contrast, the Figure 11 showed the opposite pattern, that is, both the HtOG and
NtOG decrease with an increment of the water feed flowrate. The results obtained in both figures mean that
both the eight of the apparatus required to accomplish the requested separation and the number of
theoretical stages required to carry out the same separation in a plate-type apparatus will increase if QG
increases (mL constant), and will decrease if mL increases (QG constant).
Analyzing and summarizing the results showed in Table 9, the Pall rings supplied the highest value of D
(1.221 m), while Hiflow® rings provided the lowest value of P/Z (112 Pa/m). On the other hand, Top
Pak® rings presented the highest values of both HtOG (0.671 m) and Z (2.60 m), as well as the lowest
values of D (0.921 m), Km (0.109 kmol/m3.s) and ah (55.66 m-1). Finally, VSP® rings had the highest
values of P/Z (223 Pa/m), Km (0.326 kmol/m3.s) and ah (169.57 m-1), and the lowest values of both HtOG
(0.148 m) and Z (0.60 m). It should be noted that the value of D obtained for VSP® rings, which is the
second highest value of D of all the packing types considered, is only 18.6 % higher than the lowest value
of D obtained, corresponding to Top Pak® rings (0.921 m).
Considering the results obtained for the four packing types evaluated, it can be concluded that the most
appropriate packing to use for this service or application is the VSP® rings, since it supply the most
economic geometrical results and the highest mass-transfer conditions.

4. CONCLUSIONS

The Pall® rings provided the greatest value of tower diameter (D) [1.221 m]. The Hiflow® rings supplied
the lowest value of the overall pressure drop (P/Z) [112 Pa/m].
The Top Pak® rings presented the lowest values of D [0.921 m], the volumetric gas-phase mass-transfer
coefficient (KvG) [0.116 kmol/m3.s], the volumetric liquid-phase mass-transfer coefficient (KvL) [0.372
kmol/m3.s], the overall convective mass-transfer coefficient (Km) [0.109 kmol/m3.s], and the effective
specific surface area of packing (ah) [55.66 m-1]; as well as the greatest values of the overall height of a
gas-phase transfer unit (HtOG) [0.671 m] and packing height (Z) [2.60 m].

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The VSP® rings presented the highest values of P/Z [223 Pa/m], KvL [1.172 kmol/m3.s], KvG [0.349
kmol/m3.s], Km [0.326 kmol/m3.s] and ah [169.57 m-1], as well as the lowest values of HtOG [0.148 m] and
Z [0.6 m].
An increment of the gas mixture feed flowrate (QG) (keeping constant mL) increases the values of D, P/Z
and Z, while Km decreases for the four packing types considered. An increment of the solvent feed
flowrate (mL) (maintaining constant QG) will increase the values of D and Km, while both P/Z and Z
decreases for the four packing types evaluated. An increment of QG will increase the values of both the
HtOG and the overall number of gas-phase transfer units (NtOG) for the four packing types.
Both the HtOG and NtOG decrease with an increment of mL. The most adequate packing to use on this
absorption system is the VSP® rings since it provided the highest mass-transfer conditions with the lowest
column dimensions.

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Nexo Revista Científica / Vol. 29, No. 02, pp. 83-104 / Diciembre 2016
SEMBLANZA DE LOS AUTORES

Amaury Pérez Sánchez: Obtuvo el grado de Ingeniero Químico en la Universidad de Camagüey


“Ignacio Agramonte Loynaz”, Cuba, donde actualmente es profesor instructor e investigador
auxiliar. Trabaja en líneas de investigación relacionadas con la transferencia de calor y masa en
plantas procesadoras de alimentos y biotecnológicas, además del empleo de simuladores de
procesos para evaluar y/o diseñar procesos, sistemas u operaciones unitarias.

Eddy Javier Pérez Sánchez: Obtuvo el grado de Ingeniero Químico en la Universidad de


Camagüey “Ignacio Agramonte Loynaz”, Cuba. Actualmente labora en la Empresa
Agroindustrial Cítricos Ceballos, donde es especialista principal del área de Producción. Trabaja
en líneas de investigación relacionadas con el diseño, evaluación y optimización de sistemas y
procesos de la industria alimenticia, específicamente la simulación de procesos empleando
simuladores profesionales.

Rutdali Segura Silva: Obtuvo el grado de Ingeniero Químico en la Universidad de Camagüey


“Ignacio Agramonte Loynaz”, Cuba. Actualmente labora en el Centro de Ingeniería Genética y
Biotecnología de Camagüey, donde es especialista del área de documentación. Trabaja en líneas
de investigación vinculadas con la filtración estéril y formulación de vacunas oleosas, además del
diseño y/o evaluación de procesos biotecnológicos y fermentativos.

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Nexo Revista Científica / Vol. 29, No. 02, pp. 83-104 / Diciembre 2016